|Publication number||US6903446 B2|
|Application number||US 10/045,766|
|Publication date||Jun 7, 2005|
|Filing date||Oct 23, 2001|
|Priority date||Oct 23, 2001|
|Also published as||CA2464108A1, CN1575521A, CN100385662C, EP1440472A2, US7297561, US20030076489, US20050118738, WO2003036718A2, WO2003036718A3|
|Publication number||045766, 10045766, US 6903446 B2, US 6903446B2, US-B2-6903446, US6903446 B2, US6903446B2|
|Inventors||Ralph C. Tuttle, Christopher Sean Plunket, David B. Slater, Jr., Gerald H. Negley, Thomas P. Schneider|
|Original Assignee||Cree, Inc.|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (17), Non-Patent Citations (1), Referenced by (4), Classifications (14), Legal Events (4)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
The present invention relates to the manufacturer of semiconductor devices. More particularly, the invention relates to quality control aspects in producing large numbers of devices on wafers and confirming that the devices have been properly made.
The present invention relates to the manufacture of semiconductor devices. In particular, the invention relates to the manufacture of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and related devices such as laser diodes formed in silicon carbide and related wide bandgap materials.
Silicon carbide is a preferred material for certain semiconductor devices, circuits and device precursors. Silicon carbide has a number of favorable physical and electronic properties that make its use attractive for devices in which relatively large bandgaps are desired or necessary. Because of its relatively wide bandgap and its greater recent availability in device quality crystals, wafers, substrates and epitaxial layers, silicon carbide has formed the foundation for a significant increase in the production, sale and use of LEDs that emit in the blue portion of the visible spectrum. Additionally, as other wide bandgap materials have more carefully adapted for light-emitting diode use, particularly the Group III nitrides, silicon carbide has proved to be an advantageous substrate material for Group III nitride-based light-emitting diodes.
One of the benefits of silicon carbide, in addition to its appropriate crystal structure match with many Group III nitrides, is the capability of silicon carbide to be conductively doped. Because silicon carbide can be conductively doped, a silicon carbide substrate can function as part of the current-carrying portion of a light-emitting diode. As a result, silicon carbide can form part of a “vertical” light-emitting diode; i.e., one in which the ohmic contacts are positioned on the top and bottom (i.e., opposite ends) of the device and thus direct the light-generating current to flow linearly through the device. As known to those familiar with other substrate materials (such as sapphire) which are not conductive, a vertical geometry device cannot be formed with an insulating or semi-insulating substrate. Instead, the respective ohmic contacts must be placed in a lateral relationship rather than a vertical one on the device. In most circumstances, the vertical orientation offers a number of advantages, including a proportionally smaller size, generally easier incorporation into circuits and packages, and resulting lower cost.
Given the desired function of a light-emitting diode, the structure of the device should enhance rather than hinder the light-emitting function. Furthermore, LEDs are often rated on the basis of light output (e.g. brightness in micro Watts, μM) at a given current (e.g. milliamps, mA) Accordingly, when ohmic contacts are made to silicon carbide substrates, they are preferably added in a manner that minimizes the amount of the substrate that they cover in order to permit as much light as possible generated by the diode to be emitted through the substrate as well as in other directions.
Furthermore, in order to produce the ohmic contacts to silicon carbide, the preferred techniques and structures incorporate several layers of metal. For example, in the light emitting diodes and lasers just described, the backside (i.e., substrate) ohmic contact is often formed by depositing a first layer of nickel (Ni) and then overlaying the nickel layer with one or more additional layers that are (for example) selected combinations or alloys of titanium (Ti) and gold (Au), or titanium, platinum (Pt) and gold.
In LEDs available from the assignee of the present invention, the Ni and Ti/Au metallization layers are formed in a pattern resembling the letter “X” in order to minimize the surface area being covered. In other devices (e.g. power devices) large ohmic contacts can be advantageous, but in an LED it is desirable to avoid coating an entire side (front or back) with metal, because the ohmic metals absorb light and reduce the total light output, and thus the efficiency of the device.
As is quite familiar to those of ordinary skill in the semiconductor arts, commercial devices are often formed in large numbers on circular wafers of semiconductor materials. The term “wafer” is used herein in its usual sense to refer to an item that has a thickness that is small in comparison to essentially parallel large surface areas. The term “wafers” can include single crystal substrates, substrates with epilayers, or substrates carrying a large number of (usually identical) devices or circuits. In the discussions herein, the term wafer will usually refer to one carrying a large number of identical optoelectronic devices (usually LED's) formed from doped epilayers on a substrate, with respective ohmic contacts to each device.
After fabricating devices on a semiconductor wafer, the wafer is cut (“diced”) into individual chips, each of which contains a single device. Before packaging, each wafer should be inspected to ensure that the proper metallization layers have been deposited on the back side of the chip. If either the Ni or Ti/Au layer is missing, a good ohmic connection to the semiconductor substrate cannot be made. Alternately, even if an ohmic contact is made, poorly-formed layers can raise long-term reliability issues.
Presently, such inspection of SiC-based LEDs is performed manually and requires significant time and specialized equipment. The inspection also adds an additional, separate, unintegrated step to the manufacturing process. As a result, the inspection process may be somewhat inefficient and inaccurate. Furthermore, because the inspection process is manual, it cannot be easily combined with other manufacturing steps in a manner that would increase the overall efficiency of the process.
Nevertheless, identifying defective devices at an early stage avoids more expensive failure later on. Stated differently, identifying and discarding defective LEDs at the wafer stage is much less expensive than going to the additional cost of producing a fully packaged device which incorporates the defects that should have been identified earlier. Accordingly, early identification of the absence of the appropriate metal layers on the backside of a silicon carbide substrate is important.
Furthermore, silicon carbide wafers are relatively expensive. Accordingly, even when they are broken, if they contain possible useful die, these need to be inspected and the individual die or devices incorporated in the manufacturing stream if at all possible. As known to those familiar with semiconductor manufacturing, increasing the percentage of high quality devices on a wafer or in a process is one of the most fundamental ways to increase profitability.
Therefore, it is an object of the present invention to provide a device, and a method of inspecting the device, that enhances the quality control and efficiency of the manufacturing process.
The invention meets this object with a semiconductor structure that enhances quality control inspection of device. The structure includes a substrate having at least one planar face, a first metal layer on the planar face, and covering some, but not all of the planar face in a first predetermined geometric pattern, and a second metal layer on the planar face, and covering some, but not all of the planar face in a second geometric pattern that is different from the first geometric pattern.
In another aspect the invention is a quality control method for manufacturing a semiconductor device. The method includes the steps of placing a first metal layer on a semiconductor face of a device in a first predetermined geometric pattern, placing a second metal layer on the same face of the device as the first layer and in a second predetermined geometric pattern that is different from the first geometric pattern, and then inspecting the device to identify the presence or absence of one or both of the patterns on the face.
The foregoing and other objects and advantages of the invention and the manner in which the same are accomplished will become clearer based on the followed detailed description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings in which:
As noted herein, the invention relates particularly to light emitting diodes, (“LEDs”), but is also applicable to other semiconductor technologies. Exemplary devices include those available from Cree, Inc., Durham, N.C., the assignee of the present invention, and include the G-SiC Technology “Super Blue” and “Super Bright” LED's that incorporate Group III nitride active layers on silicon carbide substrates. Exemplary devices (and methods for producing them) are also described in commonly assigned U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,416,342; 5,338,944; 5,604,135; 5,523,589; 5,592,501; 5,838,706; 5,631,190; 5,912,477 and 5,739,554. Given the available background in these and other patents, the details of particular LED structures and manufacturing techniques will not be explicitly recited herein, it being understood that those of ordinary skill in this art can use these and other available resources to carry out the present invention without undue experimentation.
It will also be understood, however, that although the invention is described herein in terms of silicon carbide and Group III nitride devices, these are exemplary descriptions, and the invention is not limited to these particular semiconductors.
In a first embodiment, the invention is a labeled semiconductor material.
Exemplary growth techniques for appropriate SiC substrates are set forth in U.S. Pat. No. 4,866,005 and its reissue RE34,861; and in U.S. Pat. No. 6,045,613.
Exemplary techniques for obtaining ohmic contacts to silicon carbide, and resulting ohmic contact structures, are set forth in commonly assigned U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,323,02 and 5,409,859, as well as in several of the LED patents referred to earlier herein.
In order to further explain and illustrate the invention,
As used herein, the rotational symmetry designation Cn is used in its usual and generally well understood mathematical sense; i.e., a pattern that is identical when rotated by a factor of 360 degrees divided by the integer n. Thus, when n is 2, rotating the pattern by 180 degrees will return or produce a pattern identical to the original. Accordingly,
As will be discussed herein with respect to the method aspects of the invention, because of the C2 rotational symmetry, the patterns appear the same when viewed from the top or bottom of the device or substrate. As a result, the devices can be inspected from top or bottom as may be desirable or necessary in various circumstances.
In a similar manner, in the second metal layer 27, the stripe 33 likewise includes the tabs 36 and 37. Thus, the presence or absence of the second metal layer 27 can be visually identified by the presence or absence of the tabs 36 and 37.
In preferred embodiments, portions of layers 26 and 27 overlie one another to produce the overall pattern illustrated in FIG. 7. Because the metal layers and stripes overlie one another in
In a similar manner,
The structure of the invention can be appropriately used with a number of different devices, including devices such as junction diodes, bipolar transistors, thyristors, MESFETs, JFETs, MOSFETs and photodetectors. As discussed earlier herein, the metal layers preferably form an ohmic contact to the device, and in the most preferred embodiments, the devices are formed of the respective substrate (e.g., 14 in
In a more preferred embodiment, the invention comprises a semiconductor wafer, such as the wafer illustrated at 21 in
In another aspect, the invention is a quality control method for manufacturing one or more semiconductor devices. The method comprises placing a first metal layer on a semiconductor face of a device; a wafer, an individual device, or even a device precursor; in a first predetermined geometric pattern, and then placing a second metal layer on the same face of the device as the first layer and in a second predetermined geometric pattern that is different, in some or all respects, from the first geometric pattern, with the patterns potentially overlying one another in portions.
In this aspect, the invention further comprises inspecting the device to identify the presence or absence of one or both of the patterns on the face. In preferred embodiments, the method also comprises discarding the device when one or both of the predetermined patterns are absent. As used herein, the term “discarding” is used in both a literal and figurative fashion, it being understood that in many cases the devices are marked with ink or otherwise identified rather than physically being removed from a wafer. In the most preferred embodiments, the method comprises inspecting the face of the device by illuminating the metallized face and scanning the metallized face with a machine inspection system. Furthermore, when the devices are sufficiently transparent, and the geometric patterns are symmetrical, the devices can be inspected by illuminating the face opposite from the metal layers and scanning the opposite face with a machine inspection system. In order to facilitate this, and as discussed with respect to the product aspects of the invention, in preferred embodiments, the method comprises placing a pattern with a rotational symmetry of Cn, where n is at least 2, and then the step of inspecting each device comprises inspecting either face of the device to identify the presence or absence of the Cn pattern.
In this regard, and although the invention is particularly suitable for metal patterns on transparent devices, it will be understood that if the substrate or device is opaque to frequencies within the visible spectrum, other frequencies (e.g. infra-red) can be used to illuminate the respective faces and identify the presence or absence of the characteristic patterns.
As set forth with respect to the product aspects of the invention, the use of wafers with at least one flat, and preferably both primary and secondary flats, enables the wafers to be predictably aligned on the wafer carrier 52, so that when the wafers are illuminated, the identifying patterns are in a predetermined and predicted relationship with respect to the machine inspection system (camera 56), so that the presence or absence of the distinguishing patterns can be immediately identified by the inspection system.
It will also be understood that although the invention offers these advantages for machine inspection systems, it offers similar advantages for manual inspection as well.
The invention has been described in detail, with reference to certain preferred embodiments, in order to enable the reader to practice the invention without undue experimentation. A person having ordinary skill in the art will readily recognize that many of the components and parameters may be varied or modified to a certain extent without departing from the scope and spirit of the invention. Furthermore, titles, headings, or the like are provided to enhance the reader's comprehension of this document and should not be read as limiting the scope of the present invention.
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|U.S. Classification||257/653, 257/E23.179, 257/E23.016|
|International Classification||H01L33/00, H01L23/544, H01L21/66, H01L23/482|
|Cooperative Classification||H01L2223/54453, H01L2223/54473, H01L2924/0002, H01L23/4825, H01L23/544|
|European Classification||H01L23/482J, H01L23/544|
|Jun 28, 2002||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: CREE, INC., NORTH CAROLINA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:TUTTLE, RALPH C.;PLUNKET, CHRISTOPHER SEAN;SLATER, DAVIDB., JR.;AND OTHERS;REEL/FRAME:013034/0830;SIGNING DATES FROM 20020401 TO 20020613
|Nov 6, 2008||FPAY||Fee payment|
Year of fee payment: 4
|Feb 3, 2009||CC||Certificate of correction|
|Nov 7, 2012||FPAY||Fee payment|
Year of fee payment: 8